Which Pope Had The Shortest Reign Of All Time?

If there's one thing most lay observers know about the pope (aside from the cool car he gets driven around in), is that the gig is for life, right?

Not necessarily, says U.S. Catholic. While all popes have the option of holding office until they die, if he falls into ill physical or mental health, says America Magazine, he may opt to delegate some of his duties to others.

But when the job is just too much to delegate, popes can — and have — stepped down. Perhaps the most famous (and certainly most recent) example is that of Benedict XVI, who replaced John Paul II (himself, the second-longest serving pope, at over 26 years), and resigned after just nine years at the helm of the Catholic Church, per The Guardian. Many people might assume that his is one of the shortest papal terms (indeed, no other pope had resigned since Gregory XII in 1415) but, surprisingly, he doesn't even crack the top 10.

Here are some of history's shortest-serving popes

If you're old enough, you may remember the blink-and-you'll-miss-it papacy of John Paul I, who served for just 33 days in 1978, until his death from a heart attack. Yet even he doesn't make it onto the top 10 list of the shortest terms as head of the church. Benedict V reigned for just 30 days in 964 (how quickly we forget), says The Guardian.

Remarkably, there were popes who served only 27 days (Leo XI), 20 days (Theodore II), and even Boniface VI, who was Pope in just April of 896 for 16 days. But it's Pope Urban VII, who succumbed to malaria after only 13 days, who is the shortest-serving Pope.

If you want to get technical (we do), there was also Stephen II in 752. According to Papal Artifacts, he died on his fourth day "in office," though having never officially been consecrated (ceremoniously installed as pope), he tends to get left off the lists.

We did pass an interesting papal milestone in 2020 though, notes Religion Unplugged. Despite his (relatively) short term, Benedict XVI (pictured above in 2014) is now officially the longest-lived person (so far) to have been pope. He passed the milestone in September at exactly 93 years and 141 days old.